Peer Vouching Site Raises 300K to Launch, Move to San Francisco

By Erin Griffith , written on May 31, 2012

From The News Desk is a yet-to-be-launched peer review site that's raised a $300,000 seed round from angels. The Chicago-based team will use some of that capital to move to the Bay Area, despite the irony of its angel investors mostly coming from New York.

The company's founders are finance and tech consulting ex-pats and alums of Notre Dame, where the site has existed in private beta for several months. Later this year they'll unveil to the general public.

The company's goal is to create an online vouching system. A profile is all about its subject, but it's written by the subject's friends and colleagues. Makes sense, since we are, after all, in a "reputation economy," where startups like Lenddo can bring loans to entire "unbanked" populations with Facebook-driven vouching systems.

But it's also an idea that plenty before have tried and failed. It immediately reminded me of, which didn't exactly flourish. The company pivoted into a LinkedIn-style recruiting tool after the site's founders had difficulty populating the site with peer reviews. There was also the vigilance required to keep the site from descending into a pit of defamation.

And of course, there's LinkedIn itself, which has rarely-used (based on my anecdotal research) but perfectly satisfactory recommendation function.

CEO James Ingallinera says he plans to approach the idea differently. For one, it won't be focused entirely on professional reputation. He sees it as a holistic profile that can be used in everything from everyday friendly situations to applying for college to dating or all of the above. "We'll have to get a feel from our users in the next few months as to what they want most," he says.

And since the idea is self-promotion, profiles are public, but users must approve anyone who posts a review to their profile. In this way, yes, the reviews will mostly be positive, but the content -- reflections on a person's beliefs, skills, experiences -- is more valuable than a basic thumbs up or thumbs down.

"We hope to ultimately become the go-to destination for whenever someone wants to do quick background check on anybody," Ingallinera says. "It will give you a quick sense of what everyone thinks about this person for a variety of different use cases."